According to Tom Peters, the American management guru, retaining a customer can cost 40% less than finding a new one. But to achieve a first-class relationship with a customer, so that he will stay loyal to you, you can no longer rely on the old formulas.

Competition is global and demanding consumers use a variety of channels. You have to offer something worthwhile, that will make a difference in terms of experience with the brand at every point of contact – virtual store, call center, logistics, packaging, policies for privacy and exchange etc.

And, of course, you must build up an excellent reputation – customers don’t expect a company to be perfect, but they do want you to be open to discussion and to act quickly when there is a problem.

But how then can you ensure that customers are committed to and engaged with your brand?

Customers who are engaged will tell others about your company and create a sustainable and profitable ecosystem. When you are building this sort of relationship, every detail is important. Look at Apple for example – they take a lot of care with designing their packaging, even for products that are market leaders; instead of economizing on something that a lot of companies prefer to save money on, they invest in it.

Things are changing at a fast pace, and to keep our companies healthy we have to learn quickly and take decisions more rapidly still. Clearly the right thing is to find an increasingly personal method of communicating with each different profile, investing in high-tech tools that can create exclusive environments and actions depending on the timing and the stage of the consumer cycle.

E-commerce is an outstanding example of this scenario. After many years of being one of the most talked-about issues worldwide, e-commerce as we used to know it is dead – but it is still very much alive as a business. Whereas formerly companies used to look at it in isolation, nowadays it is more than a virtual sales channel – people used to talk a lot about physical stores (of bricks and mortar) as opposed to virtual ones – do you remember that? Today a virtual store gets business for a company, reinforcing its name and visibility within the vast universe that is the internet.

And the argument about virtual versus physical stores has reached a new stage (they don’t compete with each other, they complement each other), and now covers other channels which are also complementary, such as the telephone, TV, social networks, smartphones, tablets and so on – indeed, mobile commerce is another indication of how things have changed.

So e-commerce has become a multichannel business: there is no longer a barrier between the physical and the virtual world. Each potential business channel must be considered and its special features exploited. And suddenly trading has become omnichannel – in other words, there are no boundaries between the sales channels. Customers expect each one to be a continuation of the others, with everything integrated! That’s quite a challenge!

This trend is largely guided by the shopping habits and behavior of the users, and the world they inhabit has to adapt in order to cope with these changes.